Liz Walker is bella's very own straight-talking, go-to gal, on all sex matters. She is a generous, wise spirit who is passionate about young folks gaining a healthy understanding of what sex is and where it fits into relationships, identity and life. We have hit her up with some of the hard questions. We think her responses are pretty great, so we're releasing them one by one for now.
I have discovered my older brother is looking at porn online. I want to talk to him about it to let him know it's not good for him and it hurts me that he would look at women in that way, but I don't know what to say. Help!
The way that you feel about your brother’s porn use is very similar to the way many women feel when they discover their partner or husband is looking at porn. They feel betrayed.
For women in a committed relationship, they are hurt that the man in their life feels the need to look at someone else having sex to be turned on – it makes them feel as though they aren’t good enough.
They themselves don’t want to be compared to a version of sex that objectifies and treats both women and men as sex objects. And for someone concerned about a loved one, similar feelings can arise, knowing that porn can impact current or future relationships.
The bottom line is that young guys look at porn because they like it. They don’t realise that over time, they are more likely to see women as objects. There’s very little awareness that what porn portrays is not what most women want in a real relationship.
Sex was never meant to be a performance, yet for young guys who have used porn as the benchmark, viewing it can transfer to unhealthy or unsafe performance expectations in the bedroom.
A sexual relationship has the capacity to be one of the most intimate, joyful and deeply emotional, relational and spiritually fulfilling ways that one person can connect with another.
You could probably tell your brother all these things but it’s likely he would still maintain that he enjoys it and it’s just harmless fun.
But researched findings and reports from thousands upon thousands of young men are saying that the fun wears out. Or more specifically, the brain wears out.
The thing about porn is that it can be incredibly addictive – the levels of dopamine (feel good chemical) that are released in the brain are way over the top. So the visual stimulus of watching porn becomes the preferred way to have a sexual experience.
Over time, many young men lose their ability to gain an erection with a real live woman - this is known as porn induced erectile dysfunction. (Maybe your brother could check out this website?)
When young guys realise that their porn viewing could impact the very thing that they really want in the long term – a healthy sex life – it can be enough for them to drop it completely.
Sex, masturbating and porn viewing are a very personal thing – there are not too many guys who would find it easy to talk to their sister about their porn use. I would suggest finding a time when you could sit down and watch a documentary about it. Try this one: Is free pornography destroying our brains? It’s real, non judgmental and incredibly informative. You might just find that it inspires a great conversation. And if not, at least you will have created a space for him to reflect on a whole range of issues that can result from watching porn.
By Liz Walker
At bella we don't think it is helpful to shame boys who are watching porn or masturbating, but we do believe in talking about the heart issues beneath those acts.
We think sex isn't just a romp around in the sheets, your heart is in there somewhere too. We want to approach sex with some smarts, and care. Get in the know, ladies, so you may make choices you are at peace with.
Sex is not simple, it is an intricate matter that takes time to consider. Our culture often suggests we can separate the physical from the emotional, mental and spiritual when it comes to sex, but we're not so sure. There seems, to us, to be layers to sex. It is not separate, but part of a bigger design, and hopefully just one amazing element of a fulfilling, deeply committed relationship.
We encourage you to gather wisdom in this area. This takes time, an investment. Please take what is written here, think about it, talk about it with trusted people and know that when it comes down to it, your choices must be yours, and the consequences too.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question for Liz. Please put 'Question for Liz Walker' in the subject. We will treat these matters with appropriate confidentiality.